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Darn Those Landscape Architects!

If I heard it once, I heard it a million times: “The final landscape plan shall strive to be a model for the community with a focus on removal of invasive species and planting of indigenous species”.

And then something like this follows: “Species Palette: Birch, Eastern Red Cedar…” NOT indigenous (birch) except maybe to a ravine, and thisclose to invasive (cedar).

Or I read, “Our plant palette includes coneflowers, black eyed susans, sky blue asters, and prairie dropseed”, as if they were the only plants in a woods, a wetland, or a prairie. Could we at least hear that you are planting a milkweed for the Monarch butterflies?

AAAAAGHHHHH. Can you landscape architects get it right, please? Do you ever crack a book on ecology or take a botany seminar?

Landscape architects and municipal foresters who let landscape architects get away with nonsense should know better and do WAY better. And they should stop planting crap in our ecosystems. Especially when saying that they are “models” of ecologic design.

Between Forest Park, Northwestern Hospital, and Whole Foods–all in Lake Forest–I can’t even fathom what might be happening in the larger region. Help us all to call their bluff: the Emperor has no clothes.##

Sure Signs of Summer

9:33 am. Location: Lake Forest backyard, sunny perfect day, having coffee and reading Chicago Historical Society journal and the NYTimes, while texting to see if anyone wants to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream with me tonight (no one (so far) does, how is that possible!?) being staged by Lake Forest Openlands Association and Citadel Theater Company.

Action: a movement across the way, in the birdbath, a robin taking a rambunctious bath, lots of splashing, flies off.

9:35 am. Same Location. Same circumstances.

Action: a movement across the way, in the birdbath, Mr. Cardinal takes a bath, but with longer and more restrained splashing than the robin’s. Flies to pine tree, misses, flies on to tulip tree.

Thought: Do birds schedule their bath times for 9:30 on Sundays?

Here are a few more signs that it is, indeed, summer in Chicago:

currants

Daylilies Ernst 7-17-2014 1-49-59 PM 1510x1952

Daylilies in Ernst Harboe’s parkway, Northfield, IL

dragonfly

Male Widow Skimmer Dragonfly at Richmond, IL. Check out midewinrestoration.net for more info.

Last but not least, here’s the start of peach and blueberry cobbler. Thank you, God, for summer!##

Peaches

 

 

How Did July Come Around So Fast?

Thanks for your patience, everyone, while I (and others) wrestled with a developer who wants to bring Whole Foods to Lake Forest. Yes, the same Whole Foods which, “in an effort to save trees” doesn’t publish quarterly shareholder reports, is asking us to let them (wait for it) CHOP DOWN 400 mature oaks and hickories to build a new store. The company also wants to DEMOLISH a landmarked house. There are technicalities in the zoning law that might still allow the developer to build WF’s store (and others ie a bank drive through), but for the moment the Lake Forest City Council agreed with us that a large green setback from Route 60 cannot be decreased by the developer.

If you want to write to Whole Foods (550 Bowie St, Austin, TX 78703) or you happen to know Chicago real estate moguls Mike Supera and Bernard Leviton (who are the owners of the property in question) tell them the world CONSERVES oak woods now. Clear cutting is sooo…OVER. Here’s what they want to demolish (house plus 8.5 acres of trees):

P1110231

 

See why the idea made many Lake Foresters crazy?!

But here we are with July practically done. How is that possible? Anyway, as I type this, I am looking through the window at 7′ tall single pink hollyhocks swaying in the wind next to pure white Asiatic lilies. Pure loveliness…

Hollyhocks and Lilies 2 horizontal

This is the best year ever for Chinese trumpet lilies in our garden. They are amazingly majestic–maybe 8 or 9′ tall, strong stemmed (no staking), and full of buds. They have names like, ‘Pink Perfection’ and ‘Golden Splendor’. All I can say is, “order some” for your own garden. I get mine from Van Engelen Bulbs. #

 

 

Garden Markers: The Best Product Yet

Who among you hasn’t been really really irked about plant “markers”? You know, the ubiquitous white plastic tags that snap in half after a season stuck in the dirt next to your plant? Or the sales tags that don’t offer botanical names and are stapled to pots? Or the ones that are threaded thru a slot in the pot and break off when you try to remove them (and/or are bigger than the plant itself)?

plant markerOr…there’s the disappearing marker. I have never actually caught one of our dogs making off with a white plastic tag, but I find them lying all over the garden, but never near the plant they are supposed to be identifying. If not the dogs, who then? Squirrels? Chipmunks? Or do the tags spontaneously jump out of the ground on their own?

And don’t get me going on the metal tags that bend, twist and tear, or the stakes that do the same. Or the “permanent” Sharpies that fade…or the waxy pencils that are too fat to write legibly.

Or did I mention the “helper” I hired who decided to “tidy up” the garden and removed every marker from every tree, shrub and plant?  I still have most of these tags in a box (retrieved from the garbage bin that I just happened to look in) because I haven’t the vaguest idea on which hosta or dwarf conifer they belong. Need I say that the relationship with my helper ended rather…abruptly?

Nonetheless, I am pleased to report that the best garden marking system I’ve found (well, yes, I would like to own an embossing machine like those used by botanic gardens but I’d rather fly to Europe with the same money) is from IDeal Garden Markers. The system is comprised of a unbendable steel stake, a rigid black plastic nameplate, and a white fine-point paint pen. I bought the 11 inch, 45 degree stake for most plants; the 7 inch, 90 degree stake for ground hugging plants especially miniature hostas; the “small” size black nameplate, and 4 marking pens (I bought extras because I’ve learned that sometimes the nib gets crushed when writing). After a summer and a harsh winter of use, my IDeal Garden Markers look just fine. I’m re-ordering!

Of course, then there’s the far more irksome phenom: when the tag survives the winter but the plant does not…as in the expensive Primrose in this photo. Why was it sold here if it’s not hardy? Let’s not even THINK about that! Grrrrr…..##plant marker 2

Where’s the darn Primrose I bought last year?

 

What Does Your Veg Garden Grow?

I lost a month! Somehow with all the gloom and gray and snow, I was totally shocked the other night when I started thumbing through the Chicago Botanic Garden’s course guide, picked out a “spring” class that sounded good, and realized that the class had been held two weeks ago! OMG, it is the end of March and I haven’t given the vaguest thought to gardening (usu in February I’m even starting some seeds)! Foof, get it together, Queen Bee!

One good way to get the month back, vicariously, is to ask people whose livlihoods depend on keeping organized, seasonally speaking, in the garden. One of those people happens to be my friend, Lisa Hilgenberg, who runs the Fruit & Vegetable Garden at (wait for it) the Chicago Botanic Garden. Awesome job, right?

So…what is Miss Lisa–one of the most enthusiastic people I know–choosing to grow in 2014?

wild boar farms blue tomatoes“This year, it seems to be the unusual color of veg (Queen Bee: it’s spelled veg but pronounced vedge) that appeals to me and seems to also appeal to chefs. An example is ‘Blueberry Blend’ tomato, the new release from Wild Boar Farms in Napa, CA. created by Baker Creek. Wild Boar Farms offers not just one, but three blue anthocyanin varieties!

oaxacan green dent corn“We are also going to grow ‘Oaxacan Green Dent’ corn grown in Mexico for green flour tamales, which will be part of our ‘Three Sisters and a Sunflower’ planting. Another new veg is the ‘Falstaff’ Brussels sprout, which is purple with a mild, nutty flavor. I’m guessing from its name that is was discovered in England?

“‘Boothby’s Blonde’ cucumber has a nice story. It’s been grown by the Boothby family for five generations in Maine. This cuke is a fashionable old variety that the current Organic Gardening magazine highlights as pale yellow with bumpy skin and tiny black spines, like a science experiment. The Plant Giveaway in May are seeds of Boothby’s Blonde so you can see for yourself if it is.

blond cuke“There is a bush watermelon too that I’m pretty excited about. It’s called,’Jubilee’, and it has a mere 3-5’ spread producing an oblong 10-12 lb fruit!

“And I’m really excited to grow a culinary collection of stir fry vegs: Evergreen Hardy white onion, cutting celery, Kailaan, Hon tsai tai, Joi choi, Osaka Red mustard, tatsoi and Dwarf Grey snow peas.

claytonia perfoliata“And do you know Claytonia perfoliata? We are growing it right now, because it’s so tolerant of the cold spring weather”.

“Oh, and Weedpatch readers should know that the Garden’s newly redesigned Garden View Cafe opens April 8th. Come eat!”.#

Not a Centerfold, but Close!

I’ve always wanted to be a magazine centerfold, fodder for the tabloids, or a great read for your time in line at the grocery store. And this is as close as I may ever get:

Country Gardens cover 3-10-2014 1-56-20 PM 1920x2560

Country Gardens inside 3-10-2014 1-55-57 PM 2560x1920

Thank you to Better Homes and Gardens editor James Baggett, my longtime friend and garden “personality”/writer Shirley Remes, writer and editor Beth Botts, and photographer Bob Stefko for making our farm in Richmond, Illinois seem like the most romantic old farm EVER!

Please find and buy a copy–and then ask me to autograph it so that I can get the full experience of bein’ a glamour girl. A STAR IS BORN! A STAR IS BORN! Move over Meryl and Julia and Sandra and Angelina and all you glamour has-been’s: Rommy has launched! ##